"At that time, a young man came up to Jesus, kneeling and saying, "Good Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you call me good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
We read again about a man's approach to the lord, he is "Kneeling", just as we heard the father of the epileptic do – but this petition of the lord also has some important difference, and accordingly the outcomes are very different.
For one the petition does not open with the simple, and often desperate prayer of the heart, "Lord Save Me" or "Love have mercy" – it is important to note rather that it opens with something quite other "Good Teacher" – quite a distinction – though the outer form of the prayer (kneeling) at first appears to be indicative of truly imploring God's salvation.
Jesus' response at first seems strange. But it really isn't. He is addressing the initial err in the man's approach to his question – that is to say, the man sees Jesus as merely a wise teacher of the written law, not as God. Jesus in full knowledge of this, responds accordingly, "Why do you call me good?", which supersede the obvious question, which might otherwise be asked by a mere teacher who thought of himself as God – which would more likely be: "why do you call me teacher".
In saying "One there is who is good", or in other translations "No one is good but One, that is, God" or in the original Greek text: "οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ Θεός".
In this statement, the Lord rejects the proclivity of the world to view Him as merely a good man, or a good teacher. To a first century Jewish listener, there is no mistake what is inferred by "One" who is good; it is the one God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; The God of Moses whose memory we celebrate today; Moses.
At the same time he is affirming that true Goodness is exclusively in God.
Consider the deductive reasoning in the following syllogism
a) Jesus cannot be merely teacher, because he is also good
b) But God alone is Good
c) Therefore Christ is God
And out of this great and unique goodness, Christ opens the doors to all of the treasures and wealth of heaven to this young man, who has otherwise approached him merely as a "teacher" offering himself as the guide, and at once revealing himself also as God, and correcting the Man's own error in reasoning.
Jesus then goes on and instructs him to keep the commandments, confirming the relationship between a virtuous life and salvation.
"He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?"
Yet, in the Lord, formal observance of the Mosaic law alone does not equal fulfillment of all the commandments of God. Indeed, saying that one has kept the letter of the law as it were can create a false contentment about the virtue of ones life. That is because salvation does not depend upon external matters, whether they be many or few, great or small, but on the virtues of the soul – Faith, Hope, and Love – and the greatest of these is Love – it is the consummate virtue, in which all other lead up to, plug into, it is the umbrella policy for all of the others, and that without which, the other cannot stand.
a) For example, have you ever seen true humility without Love – humility devoid of love not really false piety, and hypocrisy?
b) How about true courage, without love? Is it not really recklessness or insanity?
c) What about Modest without Love? Is it not narcissism supremely cloaked?
How much more so are these things true when it comes to the two supreme virtues which lead up to Love, that is to say Faith and Hope, can they stand along as a end in themselves – No. all virtues have their perfection in the one virtue which includes them all; Love, and Love has only one source.
The reward of these virtues of the soul, when they find their true perfection and fulfillment is nothing less than Salvation – and it is this sort of virtue that this particular young many still lacks.
"Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions."
Four distinct points:
a) Sell what you possess and give it to the poor (that is not to say, vet the poor, don't interview them, don't need to find out if they're going to buy alcohol. Just give it to the poor.
b) Come and follow me – again simple instructions, no room for interpretation. It is not the great agnostic or atheistic fallacy, I'll believe when I have empirical evidence, or I'll believe when you show me a sign (testing God). This is simple "follow me"
c) He was sorrowful because he had "great possessions" – not possessions – those things are not sinful, in and of themselves cause no harm. "great" implies an imbalance of wealth, indicative of economic injustice. But all wealth is relative where injustice and suffering are involved. Does it make a difference to the homeless and hungry that you have 10k dollars or 10 mln.? the number doesn't actually matter, what matters is if it is insulating you for the Lord, and eroding your "love for your neighbor" – there is little question money, can do this quite quickly and quite easily.
d) But what is money? Is it paper? Is it a debt instrument issues by a central bank like the Fed.? The answer is yes, and yes. But more importantly and fundamentally it is a redemption slip on society, and when you have many of these, you affectively have a lot you can ask of society. In this regard, money is power over others, power that is created and comes from man, and not God. To pursue this power over men is to use our freedom to eradicate God from His position.
But God acts in cooperation with the human soul. If you take a small step forward, God will take a huge leap forward. As with most thing, there is only one way to validate this statement – that is to try it. It costs nothing.
For God to save the unwilling would it not be merely compulsion? Would His creation, be acting in free cooperation with its creator? Would that be anything like Love – is Love not His intention, is he not Love itself?
To save the willing is a show of grace. Perfection is voluntarily, it is a bi-product of the first thing God endowed us with, that is: "Freedom to choose".
See real virtue is a choice, it stems from this free movement of the soul, to choose that which is right, that which is good, that which is of God – it is to choose God. From this vantage point, following "the law" is easy. But the question remains, can the law be followed without this movement of the soul? Absolutely. And is the law dead in this case? Absolutely.
To sacrifice all and to follow Christ for the cause of the Kingdom – that is something. To seek ones perfection in the Lord, in Faith in the Lord (validating that which cannot be validated in advance), in Hope in the Lord, (fighting not to succumb to despair, when many good reasons exist is the world to do so) in Love in the Lord – that is to be most free, that is to take human freedom and elevate it to its purpose, to its perfection. To those belong the Kingdom of Heaven.
"And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."